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5 Quick Tips for Sub Days

Hello all,

It’s been a while since my last post.  The only excuse I have is that I got sick. Nothing serious, just a bad cold, but it made me want to sleep more than write a blog post.

Thankfully, I’m better, so I’m back to blogging.

Recently, something happened at my school that reminded me about how important it is to plan for those days when you have a substitute.

I don’t like being absent from school, not because I love it so much, but rather because of all the preparation required. I have to plan twice as long for a sub than I do when I’m going to teach. Most veteran teachers will agree with me I know.

So back to my story:

The science teacher on my team had to be out for an appointment, so she called it for a sub. She had nice lesson plans, and I met her sub who seemed to have everything under control on that day. The sub was a nice young lady who even told me that she had once been a student at that school when she was in 8th grade. She even said that she remembered seeing me. That made me feel really old. Oh well.

About two days later, I was walking into the science teacher’s classroom for lunch when I noticed a folded piece of paper on the air conditioner outside her door. I noticed that it had the teacher’s name  on the front of it. I picked it up, and opened the paper, and found that someone had written down the address to a YouTube video. That was all. There was no name or any thing else – just the teacher’s name and the YouTube address.

I gave the teacher the note, and we typed in the address on the computer.

What we saw was an iPhone video that one of the students had taken during the class when there was a sub. It showed about five boys working as a team to distract the sub while a couple of the boys threw a small stapler from one corner of the classroom to the other corner, trying to make it into the trash can. It was unbelievable.

The student who took the video had the brilliant idea of posting it on YouTube, which eventually ended up being shared on Facebook, which is where one responsible student found it and anonymously left the note for me to find.

Needless to say, the boys were given pretty tough consequences by the school’s administration. The video has since been deleted.

All this to say, even though the plans were good, the one variable that a teacher often cannot control is the quality of the substitute.

For that reason, I just wanted to share some tips that may make taking a day off  a little less stressful.

Tip #1 – Have a current seating chart.

I make my seating charts on PowerPoint because it allows me to place photos of the students on the page. My attendance and grading program that the district provides us has photos of all the kids. I just copy and paste pictures onto my PowerPoint, print it out, and have it ready for the sub. My subs love this.

Tip #2 – Assume you’re going to get an incompetent substitute.

Although substitute teachers have college degrees, not all subs are good with kids or care about their job. I’ve had subs who spend the day reading a book or updating their Facebook status while the class goes crazy. They’ll scream at the kids, belittle them, or even discuss topics that are inappropriate for the age. For that reason, my plans are so easy, a caveman can follow them. (My apologies to cavemen). I normally have a video that the kids take note on, then a worksheet or book work. I never have the sub do any actual teaching, unless I know who the sub is going to be. For example, I have a great sub who is an expert on the American Civil War. I always allocate some time for him to share his knowledge with the kids.

Tip #3 – Never grade what the students did with the sub.

I’m not there to teach the concept. I don’t know who did the work. I can’t be sure that the students completely understood the instructions, so I don’t give work done on sub days too much value other than to reinforce what we have already learned.

Tip #4 – Give the sub a heads up on students who should be given special attention.

There are some students who just wait for days when there is a substitute in the classroom, so they can have some extra fun at the sub’s expense. We all have “those” students  – the ones who cause us to squeeze the stress ball a little harder – you know. Somewhere on the seating chart, draw a little star by their name, and let the sub know to keep a special eye on the class “stars.”

Tip #5 – Leave your phone number on the lesson plans.

You never know what you have forgotten to make clear. Let the sub know that he/she can call you if there are any questions.

Bonus Tip #6 – Teach a students how to use the technology in the classroom.

Many substitute teachers are retired teachers or older people who have retired and looking to supplement their income, and they may not be used to the newer audio visual equipment in the classroom. Make sure at least two students in each class know how to run the projector or the VCR or  the DVD player. I always have two, just in case one student is absent.

There you go. There are more tips, but these are the ones that I think are most important.They’ll be part of my upcoming ebook – 101 Practical Tips for New Teachers. It’s due out in March. It will be free to download. Sign up for my newsletter to be the first to get it.

Does anybody else have any other sub day tips to share?

Until next time,

Here’s to lots of Success In The Classroom!


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